Sunday, 17 March 2013

The Hard Right: A Thought Experiment

Some people are never satisfied. Our LibDem-supported Tory government have pushed through the most ruinous economic policies since the 1930s. Have gleefully cracked down on the social security net that supports our lowest paid, poorest, and most vulnerable. Immigration has been restricted to the point it's damaging Britain's economic interests. The rich can look forward to income and corporation tax cuts. And Dave has conceded a referendum on EU membership should the Tories win the next election. If I was a rightwing newspaper proprietor I would be pretty gratified, all told. And yet, no matter what Dave does the rightwing press - The Sun, The Mail, The Express and The Telegraph - are doing all they can to destabilise the PM's leadership. So why are the hard right talking up leadership challenges (Boris, Theresa May) and Tory disloyalty? Why are they providing so much free advertising copy for UKIP?

Let's speculate.

Say the kind of Britain the hard right would like to see is one where the welfare state is stripped back to a residue and where the public sector is privatised or as penetrated by business interests as possible. A Britain in which working people are atomised, flexible to employers' needs and their dependence on the good grace of capital is absolute. Where challenges to the accumulated privileges of the British oligarchy - be it through labour and other social movements, or the backdoor of the EU's Social Chapter or European Court judgements - are nullified. And a Britain where the responsibilities capital was forced to concede politically and industrially are reduced to the barest minimum; supporting the less well off, for instance, becomes a matter of philanthropic choice, not an obligation. This is Thatcherism taken to its logical conclusion, of governmental activism used to prosecute and cement a society beholden to capital and the privileged interests arrayed behind it.

Say the hard right also know Dave will likely be a one-term Tory. Demographic changes and the retoxification of the Tory brand could see the Tories out of power for a very, very long time. The next two years could be the only stab the right have at reshaping our society around their priorities and privilege. As far as they are concerned, the Coalition's "achievements" are, if you forgive the pun, a step in the right direction. But they do not go far enough. They want to see a legislative and cultural legacy embedded to the degree it would be difficult, expensive and politically vexatious for an incoming Labour government to undo. They want to forestall a perceived social democratic policy programme well in advance.

How to extend, consolidate and render permanent the path toward this vision of Britain under these circumstances?

Thinking through this problem, it would be expedient if hard right intellectuals persistently used their media channels to swing political discourse further to the right. While the rightwing press have always stirred up hatred against immigrants and used scapegoats, cranking up the rhetoric against powerless but easily identifiable groups of people and oppose to them the decent, respectable, and hardworking majority always strikes a chord. Picking up on myths of national decline and fear of the new, one can also assume and champion a more traditional *English* nationalism that makes sense to people alienated from 'official' British multicultural national identities, from the EU, and the progress various minorities have made in winning rights and acceptance. Politically, to have a rump of Tory MPs who mouth off at every opportunity about how the party can win if it turned further right are useful too, as is the rise of a populist hard right party with a track record of slewing off significant numbers of Tory votes. With the Tory party harried by the meltdown in its right wing core vote, and all the media inputs into the Westminster bubble awash with the common sense of the hard right, the combination of apparent electoral expediency with a less bumpy ride in the op-eds exerts a powerful gravitational pull on leading Conservatives and builds the rightist 'temptation' up to almost irresistible levels.

Therefore one could conclude this exercise in idle speculation that for such a project to be successful a vocal, well-funded, well-publicised and well-organised set of rightwing voices has to come together to push it.

I'm glad this is only a thought experiment.


Gary Elsby said...

Ken Loach (vs?) Tristram Hunt on Newsnight debating 'Socialism'.

One wag tweets:

'It's like watching Professor Steve Hawking Vs Jordan on the subject of Quantum physics'.

sackcloth and ashes said...

Which one was Jordan? Loach or Hunt?

Roobin said...

The entire Tory strategy is to overturn as much as possible, destroy as much of the labour movement's basis as possible in five years in order to rig the terms of public life for a generation. To the extent this job remains unfulfilled the right-of-the-mainstream-right may look to an equivalent of a united front with the UKIP/EDL milleu. This is only a possibility.

Phil said...

I don't think UKIP will touch the EDL with a barge pole. Farage isn't stupid - he knows any whiff of violence about his party will effect them badly. But apart from that, you're right.

Roobin said...

Not any more. The EDL are bust. 2010 though I remember (all too well) a UKIP lord gave 150 EDL members parliamentary passes to see Geert Wilders speak: a grim day.